Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is a protein that is produced by the developing fetus and is also produced by some cancer cells in adults. In medicine, AFP is used as a biomarker to detect and monitor certain conditions, including pregnancy and certain types of cancer.
During pregnancy, AFP is produced by the fetus and crosses into the mother’s bloodstream. Elevated levels of AFP in the mother’s blood can indicate that the developing fetus may have certain birth defects, such as neural tube defects or Down syndrome. AFP can also be measured in amniotic fluid during amniocentesis to help diagnose certain fetal abnormalities.
In adults, AFP levels can be used as a diagnostic tool for certain types of cancer, such as liver cancer, testicular cancer, and ovarian cancer. Elevated levels of AFP in the blood can indicate the presence of cancer cells. AFP levels may also be used to monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment and to detect the recurrence of cancer.
However, it’s important to note that elevated AFP levels can also be caused by other non-cancerous conditions, such as liver disease, hepatitis, or cirrhosis. Therefore, AFP levels are typically used in combination with other diagnostic tests to confirm a cancer diagnosis.
Overall, AFP is an important biomarker in medicine that can help diagnose and monitor certain conditions. It is often used in conjunction with other diagnostic tests and should be interpreted by a healthcare professional.